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Two programs set to train new Hawaii Island farmers

Updated: 
January 6, 2017 - 10:25am

KAMUELA — New and aspiring farmers and ranchers on Hawaii Island can choose from two comprehensive courses launched by The Kohala Center in early 2017.

In addition to the Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program, which has graduated more than 120 students since 2013, The Center will host the state’s largest farmer training program — GoFarm Hawaii — for the first time on the island.

The seventh cohort of The Kohala Center’s Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program will begin Feb. 4 in Honokaa, with sessions held every other Saturday through October from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Classes will meet primarily in Honokaa but also rotate between training sites in Hawi, Kailua-Kona, and Ka‘u to encourage participation from multiple regions.

The program provides 188 hours of coursework, on-farm demonstrations, workshops, field trips and online resources covering topics such as soil fertility management, tropical crop production, livestock production, business planning and financing, and agricultural product marketing. Tuition is $250 for the full program and scholarship assistance is available.

Students who successfully complete the program will be eligible for assistance in securing farm leases and capital to successfully produce, market and distribute their crops. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development.

GoFarm Hawaii @ The Kohala Center will offer students classroom instruction, tours of local farms and hands-on experience in small-scale farming at The Center’s demonstration farm in Honokaa. Sponsored in part by Ulupono Initiative, Kamehameha Schools and County of Hawaii, the program is divided into three phases starting with an “AgCurious” introductory session, followed by four AgXposure site visits.

AgXposure participants may then apply to AgSchool, an intensive, hands-on, four-month farmer training program. Applicants interested in GoFarm @ The Kohala Center are encouraged to attend the AgCurious session on Jan. 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the North Hawaii Education and Research Center (NHERC) in Honokaa. AgCurious will provide an overview of the GoFarm program and the current state of farming in Hawaii.

AgCurious and AgXposure sessions are available at no cost, while enrollment in the 13-session AgSchool program is $20 per session. Interested applicants may email Derrick Kiyabu at derrick@gofarmhawaii.org to register and for more information.

“Our farmer training programs were created with a specific goal in mind: to improve food security in Hawaii by training and empowering future generations of local food producers,” said Nicole Milne, director of food and agriculture initiatives at The Kohala Center. “Here in Hawaii we import roughly 85 percent of our food, the average age of our local farmers is increasing, and the number of farms in the islands and across the U.S. is declining. Encouraging island residents to consider careers in agriculture and give them the knowledge and support they need to succeed are critical elements in our strategy to reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imports and move us toward greater food self-reliance.”

Although no previous farming experience is required, preference is given to applicants who have taken steps to become agricultural producers but would benefit from a comprehensive curriculum.

More info and registration: kohalacenter.org/farmertraining

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